Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Christ As Our Sanctification: The Meaning of Ephesians 5:22 - 32 ("The Jewish Way")

Concluding the comparison to and contrast of patriocentricity with the practice of Orthodox Judaism according to Rabbi Maurice Lamm in “The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage

In previous posts in the blog series, I've provided quotes from Rabbi Lamm's book demonstrating many beliefs and practices in traditional, orthodox Judaism that actually contrast if not denounce many of the submission doctrines taught by Bill Gothard, the Shepherding/Discipleship movement (Christian Growth Ministries, New Wine Magazine, Sovereign Grace Ministries, etc.) and the so-called “Biblical patriarchy movement.”

From Lamm's writing, we established the following:

  • God sets Israel apart from other peoples and nations through His law.(Note: Jews first abide by the Torah, but Moses ben Maimon, otherwise known as Maimonides, recorded the Mishnah Torah to clarify the practice of Jewish law according to oral tradition.)

  • Man complies with God's law through works in order to set himself apart (sanctify himself) unto God as an act of service and worship.

  • No one can be spiritually purified through God's law. Sins can be remitted and covered, but only through the shedding of blood. (Exodus, chapters 29 & 30)

  • God sanctifies (“sets apart”) sex through marriage. By sending His Law to Moses, God “set apart” marriage from concubinage. Marriage then became a transcendent act which distinguished Israel from other peoples and nations, because prior to His law, marriage was only a common law arrangement.

  • A woman is set apart as the exclusive wife of one man through marriage. She is not owned by her father prior to marriage, and her legal status is “potentially available to all men” and “ownerless.” Marriage therefore sanctifies or “sets apart” a woman for one man, and the groom is in no way considered to be a moral or spiritual intermediary for his bride under Jewish law. When a groom marries his bride, he is not setting her apart unto God and conferring any salvation to her in any sense.

  • So long as there are no impediments under Jewish law, a father does not participate in the arrangement of his daughter's marriage. The law does not even require his participation in the “chuppah” or nuptial ceremony. The father may participate by offering the dowry, but even in the ceremony itself, it is the daughter who presents the dowry to her husband (Lamm, pg 201).

  • Though a husband “acquires” a wife, Judaism repudiates the concept that a woman is property. The language of “acquire” imparts a legal status to marriage and was used for this reason, not to reduce woman to an object or property. Judaism finds this concept of a woman as property to be repugnant.

  • A wife retains her rights and independence under Jewish law, including rights to wealth, property and the right to work. As long as her family and home are well-provided for, she may even keep all of her own money if she agrees to not live off of her husband's wealth. She may obtain a divorce if her husband prevents her from employment or if he demands that she lower her socio-economic status.

  • Jewish law grants a wife the right to sex, and it is the duty of the husband to satisfy his wife's sexual needs, not vice versa. The wife is granted rights in marriage, but the husband is granted no rights but only responsibilities.

  • A wife answers for her own moral behavior, independent of her husband. For this reason, God deals with Adam and Eve separately when he confronts them in their individual sins in the Genesis account, holding each accountable for their own sin separately. Adam was not questioned about Eve's behavior, but only for his own. Eve did not need a mediator before God, and Adam did not act as such when God confronted her directly. A husband is not considered to be the moral agent or representative of his wife or her moral keeper. (This is apart from fiduciary obligations, as by law he must provide for her as part of her marital rights and his marital obligations.) The Jewish law does not hold a husband accountable for his wife's moral impropriety or behavior because she always retains her own, independent, full legal and moral status.
In the previous post, I discussed Paul's status as a Jew with advanced, expert knowledge of Jewish law through his training as a Pharisee. The Torah and the Hebrew language were still significant to the practice of Christianity because Jesus came first to offer salvation to the Jew by fulfilling the law, the Old Testament. As an expert in the Hebrew language, Paul also would have considered that the audience to whom he addressed his epistle when he wrote to the church at Ephesus would have understood Hebrew language and tradition concerning both sanctification and marriage.
From Page 151:
Rabbi David Abudarham, a medieval liturgical commentator, said, “When we recite in our prayers ‘God who sanctified us,’ we may interpret it ‘God who married us,’” for the Hebrew root of both “sanctified” and “married” is k-d-sh.
.Paul knew well that the words “sanctified” and “married” were closely related in Hebrew and that they did derive from the same root of “k-d-sh.” But what was his purpose? His audience understood the significance as he did, and I believe that Paul considered this significance with design an purpose. Paul often uses advanced Greek literary devices in his writing, but his meaning conveys with a quite simple reference to the similarities in the words here. Paul is highlighting the difference between Christ and the Jewish law here, not teaching that husbands are spiritual intermediaries or governors for their wives. By referencing sanctification, he is explaining how Christ fulfills not only the law but even the “k-d-sh” through his sacrifice which allows us union with God through him and his “marrying” of us. He literally became the fulfillment of the word “k-d-sh” in every way, by both sanctifying us and marrying us. The promise of the word “k-d-sh” holds an analogy and a foreshadowing of Christ Himself and is almost like the proto evangelian with a promise of sanctification woven within it!
Prior to Christ, the law sanctified sex through marriage. As marriage transcended concubinage through the law, so does Christ. Christ fulfilled the law and gave us a superior covenant wherein our sins are not only covered or remitted but they are imputed unto Christ himself so that we actually receive His own holiness. He does what the law cannot – the law merely sets us apart but Christ actually becomes our sanctification. The imagery of marriage holds a powerful message of how Christ sanctifies us.

Consider this section from Ephesians 5 (NKJV):

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,
26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,
27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
This passage which starts out discussing different aspects of our actions and works as a function of our “walk” in the Lord speaks of God as our origin (our head) through Christ. Our Savior sanctifies us spiritually and sets us apart for Him and for no other, just as a husband does in marriage. Looking to Christ's sacrificial love for us, husbands are to follow His example in love and care of their wives. Wives are to submit unto their husbands as unto the Lord. But there is no language here that says that a husband becomes an intercessor for his wife, and it certainly appears nowhere else in the New Testament.

This passage compares the spiritual example in Christ as our sanctification – impossible for man through works and outside of Christ – through the analogy and imagery of the marriage of husbands and wives. Marriage is found in the likeness of Christ and His relationship to the church, not vice versa. Following the analogy of being, the creator's example far supersedes and exists on a superior level than the imagery that we have been given here through earthly marriage. Marriage is the analogy and imagery that Paul uses to clarify our understanding of sanctification in Christ, contrasting it with marriage under the law with Christ's sanctification of the Church, His Bride. The mandate to husband to love their wives concludes with the statement then shifts subjects to that of the Christ and the church. He compares them but does not indicate in any way that they are identical. Paul goes on to describe the example of Christ, BUT then returns in verse 28 to further clarify his meaning for husbands. It does not include language that explains that a husband is his wife's spiritual intercessor.

Paul does not say “Husbands, sanctify your wives by washing her with the Word to present her to Me or to the Father.” Paul only tells husbands to love their wives deeply, offering the example of the depth of Christ's love for the church. The admonishment to husbands in verse 25 and the description of Christ's example of love for the church does not conclude with verse 27. Paul goes on to specifically explain how a husband should love his wife and what he means by “even as Christ loved the church” in verse 28 -29:

28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.
29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.
After these two verses which clarify “what it looks like” and means for a husband to love his wife as Christ loves His bride, Paul shifts back to the comparison of similarities with Christ and the church. Again, verses 28 and 29 include nothing signifying that a husband endeavors to make his wife holy before God, only to love her as if she was a part of his own body. The church is so united with Christ through His love and sacrifice (the spiritual sanctification of us through His flesh and not through the law) that it is greater than that of even the mysterious intimacy of husband and wife as one flesh.

Ephesians 5: 30 - 32:
30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.
31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Anyone who teaches that a husband is an intermediary for his wife in terms of her spiritual salvation or her spiritual sanctification preaches a different Gospel and seeks to set husbands up as demi-gods. If Judaism maintained this, we would expect to find it defined and detailed somewhere in Jewish law or in the marriage ceremony, but we do not. We see the opposite in traditional, orthodox Judaism: that woman is independent from her husband in a moral and spiritual sense. Jesus would have required that the women who approached Him bring a man with them to interact with Him on the woman's behalf, but that is far from the Gospel accounts. Women approached Jesus directly and he approached them and dealt with them directly, an activity that was seen as scandalous in the culture of His day. There are also no Scriptures in either the Old or the New Testament that teach us that husbands are the moral agents, advocates or intercessors for their wives. Numbers 30, which the patriocentrist camps claim describe such a salvific role for husbands, in reality speaks of a fiduciary responsibility for juvenile daughters and wives, specifically distinguishing them from women of age. If it were necessary for husbands to work sanctification into the lives of their wives, then this language would be clear and very present in other areas of Scripture. One would at least expect to find language supportive of this in Judaism, but the opposite is true.

To take Ephesians 5 and ascribe to it the meaning that man affects the holiness of any other person, a creature who, on his own, has no ability to gain right standing and holiness before God outside of union with Christ, amounts to usurping Christ as our Savior by replacing Him with a demi-god -- a lesser god with no sanctifying or salvific power in himself. Husbands are not spiritual intermediaries or moral agents for their wives, but all come to Christ with their own sins upon their head only to account for those sins on their own. They are fully culpable for their own sins and not the sins of another. To claim that a man can work to affect holiness through actions advocates salvation by works. Roman Catholic Theology claims the opus operatum wherein works can impart grace to the inward man without faith, just by performing a sacrament. Salvation and grace come through works and need not require faith at all. Roman Catholic Theology also maintains that an earthly priest must participate in sacraments, standing in the place of Christ and serving as an intermediary for an individual follower to receive the salvific benefit of the sacrament. Thus, one could say that the idea that a husband works or governs or participates to spiritually sanctify his wife is doubly Roman Catholic. Rome believes that the priest is the necessary mediatory in the sacraments (what a Protestant believes to be standing in the place of Christ), but Rome does not teach that the wife needs two mediators, her husband and her priest.

Anyone who claims that a husband is a spiritual intercessor for his wife cannot, by definition, be Reformed by denying salvation by faith alone, both through the saving power of works and through a sacerdotal intermediary. This is closer to a Roman Catholic Theology but actually supersedes Catholicism's belief and theology. We have no savior but Christ alone, by grace alone and through faith alone. Paul wrote no special addendum to Ephesians 2:8-9, stating that it applies only to men and offering special instruction to women. Paul does not even say this in Ephesians 5. Read it and consider the tradition of works-based Judaism that denies it as well.

Copyrighted material quoted here
under fair use for educational purposes from
“The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage”
by Maurice Lamm. San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1980